When I think about the women and men who have most impacted my life and career, several faces come to mind. There are some I have explicitly thanked, while others may be unaware of how they played a part in shaping my professional and personal life.
Recognizing those who have done wonderful things to better the industry and careers of others is crucial. For this episode of Stellar Women in e-Discovery, I spoke to Joy Murao and Tricia Johnson about why we need to elevate each other and celebrate those who are going out there and making a difference.
We connected in May at the Women in e-Discovery first annual conference in Austin. This is the second episode of our Stellar Women in e-Discovery “On the Road” series. If you missed part one, check it out here.
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Mary Rechtoris: Hey Stellar Women in e-Discovery fans. I'm Mary Rechtoris, your host of Stellar Women in e-Discovery. Stellar Women in e-Discovery shines a light on female leaders making their mark in e-discovery. This is the second episode of a two-part special edition series that we are calling "On the Road." In this "On the Road" series, I connect with two Stellar Women in e-Discovery guests: Joy Murao and Tricia Johnson. If you missed Part 1, be sure to check it out and get Joy's and Tricia's take on what it means to be innovative today. In Part 2 of Stellar Women in e-Discovery "On the Road," Joy, Tricia, and I discuss why it is important to celebrate female leaders in this space and how we as an industry can elevate emerging leaders in the field. Without further ado, here's Part 2 of Stellar Women in e-Discovery "On the Road." Hello guys. How are ya?
Joy Murao: Hello.
Tricia Johnson: Hello.
MR: How is Austin treating you? Joy, you've been here for a couple of days, right?
JM: It's a little wet. It's not what I was expecting.
MR: Not at all.
JM: Someone told me to bring a bathing suit. I'm like, why did I even pack that?
MR: I brought a bathing suit as well. I'm trying to be more optimistic but it's really not looking too hot.
TJ: I took the optimistic route. We'll see. We still have a few days.
MR: Tricia, I think we'll start here with you. Can you tell listeners a little bit about your role in Women in e-Discovery?
TJ: I am the membership director for the Chicago chapter. I am excited about trying to bring in new members, so that's what I'm doing on the Chicago side. I'm just really excited to be here. One of the sessions I'm really looking forward to is the board membership panel discussion where we'll be able to meet some of the members from the board directors from the other chapters. We have an entirely new chapter board for the Chicago board this year.
MR: And you are a regional director. Right, Joy?
JM: I'm actually transitioning off from being regional director. I was the regional director for almost three years. When I joined, I was actually part of the local chapter in Los Angeles as the chapter director. Joining the national organization as a regional director was important because we were restarting chapters. To me, it is an amazing accomplishment to have this annual meeting. I think that's what brings us all together. That's going to make the organization stronger. And there’s publicity around it saying, you know, where are the women in our industry who want to come together? So, WiE is a viable organization—25-plus chapters strong and there's room for more. A conference like this is really great to help introduce you to other people, as Tricia was saying. We can also learn from each other and build those relationships. You can connect with other members and say “I want to start something,” or “I did start something but now we're having challenges with membership or challenges with even nametag generation”—or something silly like that in regard to things that seem so small. Because we're all working and this is a volunteer organization, we do need to share tips and tricks with each other and I think it's a great venue to do that.
MR: Women in e-Discovery is on a volunteer basis. What do you think is making this a booming organization? Tricia, I know your colleague Helen started the Indianapolis chapter and it's just growing exponentially. So what do women get out of this—either what you've heard or you personally?
TJ: I think we talked about this before Mary, but it was an introduction to the e-discovery industry for me, unlike Joy who's been here since almost the beginning of the e-discovery industry (because it's not that long of an industry). For me, it was a chance to meet people outside of my company who are also in e-discovery. I had the chance to do that and a place to go and just absorb what was going on, and learn all the intricacies of it without having to ask specific questions. I could just come in and absorb and learn it. It was a chance to meet people.
JM: Being in the beginning, you're all in your own firms law firms or vendor situations. So, WiE, for me, brought us together and we realized we all were facing similar situations and having the same struggles. It was a great opportunity to kind of develop education around it. When you started out with people who had earlier experience like me doing technology-assisted review 12 years ago. There are people who are now starting to deal with it and there are things I can share. There's an avenue to share that information and knowledge. There's a lot of us that have been in it for 20 plus years and now really want to have some form or way to give back and pay it forward. WiE has been an awesome organization for that.
TJ: And those of us you are paying it forward to really appreciate it.
JM: Yay! It's working.
MR: Joy, you and I were talking about how it's a little, I don't know if disheartening is the right word, but diversity in e-discovery has shifted in a negative way. It was more diverse when you started and it's kind of gotten a little bit less diverse.
JM: Well I will say that in management when I started, there were more female managers and directors. I don't know the history and the statistics. But, looking back early on, lit support was either a part of the paralegal program as more of the techie paralegal and you started to have them becoming managers. They were operationally the people who did the work and they got promoted. But I see that has evolved and lit support has started to be a part of IT. So, you're seeing that some lawyers are coming into management and you also have data scientists coming as the directors of these programs. So unfortunately, at the top, I'm starting to see more male counterparts than I am the female counterparts that I feel like we once had. I don't know if this is due to life decisions. You have attrition with attorney ranks. You have that with partners also. There's a difference or variance between the number of female partners and male partners that exists. That could also be because of life. Some are having families. Some may be becoming innovators, like I have moved out and started my own company. So, I am not in that role. Have we migrated off to having our own businesses and taking those risks and being entrepreneurs? I'm not sure. But when I look at the numbers of my peers who are at the law firms, I'm not seeing the number of female directors like I used.
MR: How can we elevate emerging leaders especially female leaders in the industry?
TJ: Looking for opportunities to help them develop—whether that is through trainings or organizations like WiE. [It is about] recognizing that and actually kind of pushing that idea—not waiting for somebody to say “I want to go to this WiE national conference” or a different conference. [They could strengthen] more specific skills. If someone is more on the IT side, maybe you send them to a coding conference or another IT-related one that isn't directly related to what they're doing but will give them the knowledge and the skills to create that innovation. From the leadership side, we have to recognize that we need to give this to our employees and tell them, and maybe some of them even kind of push them into it versus waiting for them to come and ask for it. I think especially as you're starting your career, you don't know that you can ask for stuff like that. You have to be handed it or at least told about it at first to know that that's even a possibility.
JM: What I noticed is helping people build confidence in who they are and what they can do. A lot of people shy away and say: "I'm not technical, I'm not a techie, or I'm not a programmer." And what I try and do is, first of all, open their eyes to [the notion that] being a techie today is not what a techie was 15 years ago. I had to learn C and C++. I had to learn to code a little so that I could hold my own against UCLA electronic engineers. They were in one of my big departments and because I wasn't at UCLA, that was another problem. But there was this concept to be a technical IT person, you had to come from an IT-degreed background. You've started to see some wonderful people in IT who were from music majors and they are so creative. Their minds work in a certain way. What I have learned—and I have this thing called the Murao Method and I mentor people using it—is that I don't just teach you a tool. I teach you to understand the dynamic of the law firm—we’ve talked about it before: the anatomy of a law firm. We talk about personal skills like dealing with difficult people and how to deal with difficult situations. I teach how to write an email to people who are very busy and how to get your point across and how to use other methods of communication like knocking on a door or a phone call. It's interesting, giving people those tools and making them understand that we don't need 55 developers to do what we do. We actually need people who can talk to attorneys and we need people who can train attorneys or paralegals. It’s about the concept of helping them build the confidence in who they are. I could be a tech manager just via lit support, as a lot of my career in lit support has been underneath the IT department. I can be a tech manager even though I was an English major. I handle the technical components of a case in this way. I don't have to be going through and breaking code. I actually can teach people how to use the tools. I can sit on a call and understand what technologies to deploy for that workflow. It’s about trying to empower people—especially women—to believe in their technical abilities versus saying you have to be technical, if that makes sense.
MR: Definitely, and you were an English major?
JM: Yes, I was.
MR: I was, as well. Everyone asked if I was going to write America's next novel.
TJ: And, are you?
MR: Do you have any ideas? My dad's like, an English major ... But look, here you're a tech star and I'm in the legal tech industry.
JM: Look at you. Look at all of us.
MR: Something you said that I think is really important is teaching skills like writing an email or something like that. It's so crazy we don't learn that stuff in school. You learned about Pi and all that. But it's so valuable and I think it’s really important.
JM: Well and that's the whole concept of, and I laugh whenever I say it, the Murao Method. People ask me: How did you get to where you are? I had to take a step back and say, well, what is it? First of all, I think it is about work ethic in lit support. A lot of my team members who have been very successful in the last 20 years never thought about themselves. It was all about the case, the attorneys, and having that empathy that “I have to help take care of this.” It is 11:00 p.m.? Okay, I'll take care of the kids, tuck them in, and come back because we didn't really work remotely. You have to come back to the office. All that time and effort you put into your job because you care about it. And so how do you look back and say, “Well, now I do feel that if we don't teach certain things that we’re handicapping the next generation?” Yes, the millennials are more technical. They've used technology from the beginning. But, I'm finding they're not programming. They are a little. But mostly they understand certain technical aspects, but they're using Macs when we use PC-based machines in the law firms, right? So, they're struggling with how to do this or that. You don't know control-C?
MR: PCs are hard.
JM: It is and there's so much to learn and to teach and it's not always about getting the work done. It's how you communicate that the work is done. How do you write a budget for some of these cases? When you have a workflow and someone throws a wrench, can you maneuver yourself out of that? Can you say that we just got some new piece of information, we're going to now pivot and go over here? So, you have to teach them how to think. It's not always “follow these instructions and you'll be okay.” Well what do you do when it's not okay and where do they go? How do they ask for help? It's teaching people to say you know what: Don't sit there for five days and not tell me that you need help because the deadline is in six days. Teaching them that it's been an hour, research it. If you don't have the solution, then raise your hand, go to someone you trust. If you don't feel like you can go to your boss, then go knock on your neighbor's door. But ultimately you have to find help and you'll learn.
MR: Thanks listeners for tuning into Stellar Women in e-Discovery "On the Road." Please help us spread the word about female leaders in the space making a difference by continuing to listen to the podcast and nominating stellar women at relativityfest.com. And with that for Stellar Women in e-Discovery, I'm Mary Rechtoris, signing off.